By Maggie Chetty
Sir Jonathan Mill’s refusal to commission major items about the referendum for next year’s Edinburgh Festival programme is a debate that will not disappear quietly now that he has opened up the topic for discussion.
I find myself astonished that he offers up the topics of the Commemoration of First World War and the Commonwealth as neutral territory. As many others have commented these topics
are far from neutral. All the major war poets, writers and artists like Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Paul Nash gave us images of hell and a grotesque waste of human life. Is this a topic worthy of commemoration?
The anodyne term ‘the Commonwealth’ conceals the bloody suppression of nations across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean for centuries. Will he be remembering Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab in 1919 when General Dyer fired on an unarmed crowd of men, women children killing hundreds and wounding many more?
By next year we may even have some more notches to add to the UK imperial belt if the storm clouds over Syria develop into war.
When author and artist, Alisdair Gray raised the debate about ‘colonists’ and ‘settlers’ he spoke for many people but was roundly criticised for ‘anti-English’ sentiment. The general point was the need to have people leading our major cultural institutions who have a profound knowledge of Scottish history, language and culture and a commitment to it. Their ethnicity or nationality is irrelevant – the issues are knowledge and commitment.
The other side of that argument is why are there so few Scots who are deemed good enough to fit the bill? Could it be that we have all been so steeped in what old style Marxists would call ‘cultural imperialism’ that we cannot see the wood for the trees? Or that we think it is quite natural for anyone other than a Scot to head up our cultural institutions?
Culture and struggle go hand in hand, intertwining like vines. It is our artists who say or sing or write or paint or create those thoughts and feelings closest to the heart.
With that in mind, Scottish Socialists for Independence are holding another event –
‘A Night of Music, Culture and Politics’ in Partick Bowling Club, 30 Fortose Street at 7pm on Thursday September 12th (£5/£3). We will be welcoming Cailean Gallagher ,Labour Party and Yes researcher. David Betteridge and friends reading poems of Independence. Sandra Webster of Women for independence. Danny McCafferty, West Dunbartonshire Yes Campaign Coordinator. Councillor Feargal Dalton SNP. Singers, Arthur Johnstone, Tom Laurie and Citizen Smart with the whole thing chaired by me, Maggie Chetty.
We have a view that a night of politics, culture and comradeship should be the background to convincing those who are unsure about the need for independence, both cultural and constitutional.